The Farm Bill: Local Produce in National Supermarkets

The concept of Food Hubs seems like a no-brainer to me!

The Problem: Residents want better access to affordable, local food. Local farmers want to sell their produce in chain supermarkets, but the grocery stores don’t want 50 farm trucks coming to the store each day to make their deliveries.

The Solution: Food Hubs are regional warehouses that accept deliveries from a variety of local farms. From the food received by these food hubs, a single delivery of a range of local food products may then be made to nearby supermarkets.

I read an article titled Big Food in the latest issue of Urbanite Magazine, my favorite free magazine (also one of my favorite magazines in general). The piece explained the implications of the new Farm Bill and one particular element really sparked my interest. The idea of Food Hubs to make local food a more practical purchase for wholesalers. These warehouses can act as the think between producer and consumer. Whereas before, local foodies would have had to purchase their produce from farmer’s markets or farm-to-table restaurants, local produce can now be made available for any store to carry and all restaurants to serve.

Food Hubs are not a new concept, however; such establishments do currently exist in our country. The USDA estimates that there are about 170 food hubs operating already (The Role of Local Food Systems). Also referred to as an aggregation facility, such market aggregator can operate online, where the service is provided electronically to link producers and buyers. Take MarketMaker, for example. This online connection was created in 2004 in Illinois. An excerpt from the website explains:

“MarketMaker is a national partnership of land grant institutions and State Departments of Agriculture dedicated to the development of a comprehensive interactive data base of food industry marketing and business data. It is currently one of the most extensive collections of searchable food industry related data in the country. All the information can be mapped and queried by the user.”

…A hefty explanation for a simpler service. As it notes, however, it is one of the most extensive databases- imagine a similar operation nationwide! MarketMaker operates in 20 states already.

On the west coast, in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska, a project from the nonprofit, Ecotrust, is another online marketplace. The FoodHub Community connects a range of buyers, including hotels, healthcare facilities, schools, and food assistance programs to local farmers.

This layer of digital connections makes the process much easier, but local and regional warehouses are also required for making the physical connection. The amazing span of these literal food webs can be incredibly far-reaching. Even wineries and distilleries are connected with interested buyers, as are fishermen. Our country has come so far from the days when our food was grown and consumed locally- but it’s critical for our health and sustainability that we return to that mindset. I truly hope that food hubs become a commonplace establishment in the marketplace.

Resources:

“FoodHub.” FoodHub: Where Food People Connect. Ecotrust, n.d. Web. 16 Aug. 2012. <http://food-hub.org/home&gt;.

“MarketMaker National Network.” National Food Industry MarketMaker Portal. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Aug. 2012. <http://national.marketmaker.uiuc.edu/&gt;.

Messner, Rebecca. “Big Food, Making Sense of the Farm Bill.” Urbanite Magazine Aug. 2012: 21+. Print.

The Role of Local Food Systems in U.S. Food Policy. Rep. Congressional Research Service, 4 Apr. 2012. Web. 16 Aug. 2012. <http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42155.pdf&gt;.

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